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Oculus Launch Pad — Week 5 — Farewell to Cardboard — Hello METROPOLES


This week we abandoned the cardboard aesthetic. This was a difficult choice to make as it has been a part of our narrative on gentrification in other VR experiences such as my 360/VR film “Cardboard City” and our Installation at Lincoln Center in the NYFF Convergence Program. Using cardboard has also been a part of the workshops we are designing for communities. We made a huge pivot for the following reasons.

First, the process of photogrammetry isn’t perfect yet. I’ve played with 123D catch as well as more sophisticated scanners like the Sense and Structure scanners. After the first capture it was very exciting to me how much detail the scans preserved. And when we brought the cardboard models into Unity it was exciting to see a giant, life-sized version of these structures that we crafted with our hands. However, if the lighting is altered in Unity it suddenly reveals many imperfections. In fact, depending on the model the edges can look very sloppy.

Second, we need more consistency. Since we need to recreate a cityscape we need to be more accurate with our edges, and having messy edges doesn’t look cute anymore but inconsistent. The other major inconsistency was size and scale. If people make whatever they envision in their imagination they may make a 6 story building while others create a single story building. We don’t want to limit their imagination in the workshops. So when these imaginative buildings are assembled together it can be exciting and meaningful for that group; but it loses accuracy, context and meaning if it is representing an existing neighborhood. Surprisingly these tiny details greatly affect our narrative choices. Within the context of this game, do we want communities to envision any future or do we want them to work more specifically with the present that they have and build the future into that present situation? I’ve leaned towards the latter.

Lastly it comes down to interactivity in the 3D format suited to VR. Cardboard will still be useful for our workshops because it is a great prototyping material. And as an artist I love to merge analogue and digital; but at the moment it feels more natural to work with 3D objects in a 3D space especially if we want the player to interact with them. The final restriction of using these cardboard models is that they inhibit our ability to make them dynamic; and what is VR if it isn’t interactive?

I’ll leave this week with that final question and keep that as my metaphor to move the team forward and deeper into art and architecture this coming week. As a result of bidding adieu to the cardboard aesthetic we have renamed this experience “Metropoles.”

Oculus Launch Pad — Week 5 — Farewell to Cardboard — Hello METROPOLES was originally published in METROPOLES on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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